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The 10 Scariest Christmas Movies.

By Devin D. O'Leary

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1995) Tim Burton's designs add a bizarro flair to every character in this, including an excessively rotund (and severely pinheaded) Saint Nick. In this mixed-up holiday hit, Halloween hero Jack Skellington kidnaps "Sandy Claws" and takes over his gig. While dressed as Santa, the toothpick-thin Jack delivers such holiday joys as severed heads and giant snakes to lucky little kids. This one's become a cult classic among discerning animation fans and trendy goth kids. It deserves to be watched in the bloom of the holidays, when its subversive air can be best appreciated.

Elves (1989) You want scary, I'll give you scary. How about Dan Haggerty as Santa? This obscuro monster movie features a young fast-food waitress chosen by her grandfather to be mated with an elf as part of some nasty Nazi master plan. When a sleazy, coke-snorting department store Santa is castrated by a pack of fugly little elves, fat Dan Haggerty (as a homeless ex-detective) is brought in to save the day. Dan's tried several "comeback" movies since his post-Grizzly Adams drug bust days. This is undoubtedly the weirdest. The elves are pretty creepadelic, but--brrr--Dan Haggerty!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) This early '80s slice-and-dice kicked up a snowstorm of controversy (Siskel and Ebert even went on the air to whine about how awful the filmmakers were). It was eventually pulled from theatrical release and received enough notoriety to merit four direct-to-video sequels. Apparently moms and pops across the country were a tad upset about the plot, which seemed to revolve around a killer Santa Claus. In their book-burning fervor, the protesters missed the true facts. It's actually about a psycho who dresses up like Santa and kills people. Sheesh. Bonus points are awarded for several "holiday"-themed killings including a Christmas light strangulation. Look for scream queen Linnea Quigley who gets impaled topless on a set of moose antlers (well, it's almost a reindeer). Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II recycles a full 40 minutes of the original!

A Christmas Story (1983) Initially ignored on its theatrical release, this hilarious film has gone on to become a holiday classic. There's only one "scary Santa" scene, but is it memorable. Based on the writings of homey humorist Jean Shepherd, Story tells the story of young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his holiday wish for a Red Ryder BB gun. Every adult in the film confronts poor Ralphie with the mantra "You'll shoot your eye out!" including a boozy-looking department store Santa. Ralphie's visit to Santa is shot through a distorted fishbowl lens for an even more frightening childlike perspective. Little brother Randy is reduced to instant tears. The nasty assistant elves add even more paranoia to the proceedings. Director Bob Clark shot Porky's 2 the same year. Scary.

Don't Open Till Christmas (1983) In a slight (though hardly better) twist on the formula, this British stalk-and-slash features a deranged psycho hunting down and killing bell-ringing streetcorner Santas. Apparently he saw his mom killed by Santa when he was a kid. If you've got a deep-seeded hatred for Kris Kringle, this is the film for you. Assorted guys in Santa suits are strangled, dismembered, torched and slashed. One not-so-jolly old elf goes castrata in a public toilet. That's the second Santa to lose his chestnuts! These filmmakers got some serious "issues" to work out.

Christmas Evil (1980) The boss at a toy factory keeps a list of neighbors who have been naughty and nice. When the mood strikes him, he dresses up like Santa and hacks the bad ones up while humming "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." It's all because he saw mommy humping Santa under the Christmas tree as a kid. Figures. The police lineup featuring a bunch of Santas is kinda funny.

Black Christmas (1975) This movie makes Canadian director Bob Clark the only filmmaker with the dubious distinction to slander jolly old St. Nick twice in his career. A warped murderer stalks chickies (including tough-talking boozer Margot Kidder) in a sorority house on Christmas Eve. He torments them with obscene phone calls and there's a shocker ending. Olivia Hussey, Kier Dullea and Andrea Martin (of "SCTV") are also along for egg nog and bloodletting. John Saxon plays a cop (what else).

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1974) In a bit stolen years later for Nightmare Before Christmas, the Grinch bum rushes Santa's show and takes over the fat guy's nighttime rounds. The Grinch isn't exactly terrifying (plus he has that change of heart at the end); still, watching the red-suited meanie steal Christmas trees and candy canes from every Who down in Whoville can be pretty upsetting to a young tyke. I still get a little twinge every time I see the Grinch fetch little Cindy Loo Who a glass of water, hustle her off to bed and then mercilessly ram her Christmas tree up the chimney.

Tales From the Crypt (1972) Before the popular HBO series, there was this British flick based on the 1950s comic book of the same name. Buried among the five stories in this horror anthology is one entitled "All Through the House" in which Joan Collins is stalked by a psycho in a Santa suit. Like most psycho movie Santas, the ax seems to be his weapon of choice.

Home For the Holidays (1972) Walter Brennan's last role was this dull made-for-TV movie. He plays a dying man who summons his four daughters (including a young Sally Field) and tells them that second wife Julie Harris is trying to off him. It's basically a dark-old-house mystery. The killer carries a pitchfork, but doesn't even have the common courtesy to dress up like Santa.


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